MOUNT VERNON – Cornell christened the new home football turf with a touchdown on its third offensive play. The Rams struck for three more TDs in the opening quarter and were well on their way to a 45-14 Midwest Conference rout of Lawrence Saturday at Ash Park Stadium.
The Rams (1-0) recorded their largest season-opening victory in 12 years and improved to 12-2 in openers since 2000. The 45 points are the most scored by a Cornell team in Vince Brautigam's four years at the helm.
Senior quarterback Juan Flores accounted for 334 total yards and four touchdowns for an explosive offense that scored on its first five drives of the game. He was an efficient 21-of-27 passing for 275 yards and three scores. Flores also rushed a touchdown and averaged 7.4 yards on eight carries.
Cornell gained 8.2 yards per offensive play, while limiting the Vikings (0-1) to 3.6. The Ram defense came away with four turnovers, sparked by an early pick six by junior cornerback Myron Seabrook.
The Rams marched 56 yards on their initial possession and put the first points on the board on a 23-yard reception by junior Justin Cox only 1:41 into the game. Shortly after Cornell's defense forced a second consecutive three-and-out, the Rams were back in the end zone on an 18-yard scoring grab by junior Brit Connor.
Cornell quickly made it 21-0 after Seabrook scampered 22 yards on an interception return with still 7:49 to go in the first quarter. Flores capped the 28-point outburst with a 24-yard touchdown run with 1:53 remaining in the opening period.
Freshman Kaleb Whiting, who was 6-for-6 on PATs, knocked in a 33-yard field goal at the 10-minute mark of the second quarter as the lead ballooned to 31-0. The Rams would take a 31-7 lead into halftime.
Cornell tacked on two more touchdowns in the third quarter. Connor corralled his second touchdown pass of the day after a Viking fumble, this one covering 32 yards. Sophomore Ethan Thompson powered in from four yards out to push the lead to 45-7 with six seconds left in the third.
Thompson paced the Ram rushing attack with 81 yards on 11 attempts. Flores added 59 yards on the ground.
The Rams had nine players catch a pass, led by James Scully's six receptions for 65 yards. Ben Knake had five catches for 52 yards, Connor three for 68, Cox three for 41 and freshman Gabriel Noyce three for 34.
The defense got a big game from senior linebacker Jeremy Demlow, who collected 14 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble. Alex Latow was in on 12 stops. He also forced a fumble and picked off a pass. Geoffrey Miller and Shane McNally each had two tackles for loss.
Coming up – The oldest college football rivalry west of the Mississippi renews next Saturday (Sept. 14) as the Rams visit the Coe Kohawks for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Clark Field. Coe opened the season with a 23-22 win at MWC foe Monmouth.